A journalist observing developments around him; seeing through the bushes and the haze.
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Thrikkakara is a pro-UDF constituency. So, there is little reason to probe why the UDF candidate Uma Thomas (INC) won the by-election from there. Benny Behnan (INC) had won from the constituency in 2011 with a margin of 22406 votes. Uma’s husband P. T. Thomas (INC) was elected from the constituency in 2016 and 2021, with decent margins. So, it was no surprise that she won on Congress ticket from the constituency. What needs to be analysed is how she garnered a record margin of more than 25000 votes.
In his death, P. T. Thomas had gained a ‘larger than life image’. The adulation he got surely helped his wife to surpass his majority. Her candidature had become an automatic choice for the Congress. That also kept possible challengers from within the party at bay, barring a few like K. V. Thomas. This resulted in the Congress election machinery working unitedly, without faction fights. Both the KPCC President K. Sudhakaran and Opposition Leader V. D. Satheesan provided able leadership for the campaign and even their detractors joined in.
On the other hand, the selection of candidate had become a bit controversial for the ruling Left Democratic Front with last minute induction of Jo Joseph. He failed to make a first impression and all in the CPI (M) were not happy with the selection and manner in which the campaign was conducted. The dominance of the State leadership in the campaign side-lined local leaders who could have been effective in grass-root level campaign.
Efforts at social engineering and communal polarisation by both the CPI (M) and BJP failed. The BJP suffered a loss in its votes share and lost its deposit. Political parties in Kerala are to realise that attempt for communal polarisation is a double-edged sword.
However, a major factor that boosted the vote share of Congress was the absence of Twenty 20 Party in the elections. The party had aligned with the Aam Aadmi Party but had decided not to field a candidate. Twenty 20 had won 13897 votes from the constituency in the general elections to the Assembly in 2021. These votes apparently have gravitated towards the UDF this time. Its leader Sabu M. Jacob (KITEX) had hinted in favour of UDF though there was bitter antagonism between him and late Thomas. But more than any hint from Sabu, those who voted for Twenty 20 and AAP were people who cannot be herded (Kunnamkulam constituency, where voters benefit from funds from KITEX indeed present a different picture.) They take independent decisions, and LDF policies apparently antagonised them.
Finally, there was a sentiment against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who said that the by-election gave an opportunity for the voters to correct their mistake of electing Congress candidate P. T. Thomas. The voters clearly chose to repeat the ‘mistake’.
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